Revolutionaries and Reformers in Lao Buddhism
Routledge – 2012 – 240 pages
Laos remains one of the few officially socialist countries in the world. Once a Buddhist kingdom, its involvement into the Vietnam War, the communist revolution of 1975 and the subsequent introduction of reformed socialism have deeply affected Buddhism, the religion of the ethnic majority. With a historical and anthropological focus on the religious field in the capital Vientiane, the book follows these transformations and extrapolates the ruptures and continuities of Buddhist religious life from 1958 to the present. Focusing on the intertwined fields of ethics, ritual gift exchange and the Buddhist sangha’s relationship to the Lao state, the study takes a detailed look at the change of religious practices in an urban setting.
Introduction Part 1: Buddhist Socialism and the Bricolage Revolution 1. The Shape of Things to Come: Politics and the Lao Sangha before the Revolution 2. Social Engineering and State Effects: The Socialist Bricolage Revolution and its Impact on Buddhism Part 2: Buddhist Ethics and Giving between New Socialist Man and Contemporary Narrative Discourse 3. Giving as a Buddhist Technology of the Self: From Limited Exchange under Socialism to Transnational Dana 4. Narrative Ethics: The Excess of Giving and Moral Ambiguity in the Lao Vessantara-Jataka Part 3: Buddhism under Reformed Socialism 5. Between Cultural Preservation and This-Worldly Commitment: Socially Engaged Buddhism in Laos 6. The Controlled Revitalisation of Buddhism and the Spectres of Reformed Socialism. Conclusion
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany